Conducting Latam Online Research? Read This First
By Andreina De Abreu
We now live in a digital data driven society. And we know the Internet has made a lot of things (and our lives) easier. Even so, when you do research, you will always have to deal with many “unknowns.” In this world, becoming increasingly global, there are (still) many differences among countries and cultures. It’s like entering a territory with many lands unconquered.
Researchers are required to develop global research; and to collect data across different nations, with their own cultures, languages, internet penetrations, mobile adoption and so on. In such a unique continent like Latin America, being knowledgeable about the cultural differences (and particular qualities) is what will define the success of your research.
Before deciding which method—or combination of methods—you will use to collect your data, first there are some basic tips to understand Latam markets. This will help you invest your efforts (and resources) more wisely in order to get insightful data from your online research.
Internet penetration in Latam is lower in comparison to other markets. Truth is, many years ago, the gap used to be larger, but the sudden mobile internet adoption has helped close that gap. Internet adoption is unequal depending not only of the population, but also of the social economic levels and even if it is an urban or rural population.
The population in Latam is dominated by a large young segment. This is why marketers pay a lot of attention to this group. And this is great when it comes to online data collection because this particular segment keeps a major portion of the sample. Young people are staggeringly adopting the internet more than other age groups. So, that’s great news for your research project!
The continent is migrating enthusiastically to Internet, but at a slower pace in comparison to other regions. Like we mentioned, the younger population is accelerating the process and it also creates a particular online ecosystem, different by essence, to the one from Europe or North America.
What is the main difference? Precisely the mobile effect. Most of Latam is jumping into the internet through their smartphones, attracted by interactivity offered by WhatsApp and Twitter. Which is not what happened all over the world. Germans, for instance, started using Internet through their desktops and walked through the online content revolution (from news websites to social media).
Now, how does this impact your research? Well, if you are planning on doing an online survey, your questionnaire should be adaptable to all devices. Otherwise, you might experience a drastic drop-out rate.
Whether mobile or fixed, Internet connectivity is not as fast and nor as widespread as it is in Europe or North America. Is this important? Well, yes. The most important reason why is because surveys might take a longer time to be completed.
You might not believe it, but the same 20 minute questionnaire administered to participants in Europe and North America, may become a 25 minute one in Latam. Even though some differences might be caused by translation (for example, the same question in Spanish will probably have a longer length due to the number of words needed to express the same idea), the main argument is that internet speed is slower in Latam.
Now…Who is to blame for this? The panelist? The panel company? Answer is: None of them. Before unfairly punishing your participants, take their commitment into consideration. Reward them accordingly to the time they spend completing your survey.
Social class differences and their definition
Social classes have been (since the rise of traditional market research), a very important aspect in the industry because, among other reasons, it is a frequent quota variable to control sample representativeness.
In Latam, social class is more than important since it needs to be analyzed due to a demonstrable fact: differences among classes are huge! By instance, low social stratum is large compared to Europe and the United States. And in addition to this, people belonging to the classification are not living in the conditions they have in these other two regions. We are referring to people living in shacks, waking up in the morning without knowing what they are going to eat later that day.
Besides these differences, the way to define social class in Latam is very sophisticated and it varies from one country to the other. The method used to define social class might give a vague result. Normally, several questions about household composition and characteristics (including shocking ones like number of light bulbs at home or the floor’s type of material) are asked to the participant. As a result, the social class assigned to each person varies a lot depending to the answers to one or another question.
Very large urban population
The word diversity suits Latam well. The continent has great differences between regions within each country. Depending of the area, urban or rural, the characteristics (including population) are very dissimilar. Some of the most populated urban areas of the world are located in Latam: Mexico DF, São Paulo, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Lima, Bogotá and Santiago de Chile.
Internet access is one particular difference to keep in mind. The access in rural areas is extremely low, which difficulties getting a representative sample from those areas.
The key to a successful research is to develop it according to each country and its diversity. If it is not possible, try to group the ones with similar characteristics. For example, regional accents can be one of the aspects. Colombia and Venezuela have a similar way of speaking Spanish. But it is not the same if you hear a Mexican or a Chilean speaking. And this is crucial when you are creating an online survey.
Last but not least, look for help. Find a panel company which is solid in Latam a strong presence in the continent. Usually, the most reliable companies to deliver an accurate representation of Latam are the ones who already have a presence in the continent. Viva Latin América!